Some chiefs in Chiradzulu are interfering with fertiliser sales in the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp). This has brought confusion in the whole process, says Pan African Civic Educators Network (Pacenet).
Pacenet officials in the district disclosed this last Saturday during a media tour and asked relevant authorities to intervene to stop chiefs from participating in the distribution.
Hudson Jackson of Saakwata Village in Sub Traditional Authority Maone, claimed some chiefs around Choda in the district are selling coupons to vendors instead of giving them to poor beneficiaries.
“I called somebody at the Anti-Corruption Bureau and informed him about the village heads involved in the malpractice,” Jackson told reporters.
He also said a group village head was asking people to contribute K20 each to feed officers selling the fertiliser, but some villagers defied the chief.
Baxter Mayele of Malonda Village in Traditional Authority (T/A) Nkalo said some chiefs around Namadidi Admarc depot had dubious names of beneficiaries. The names, he said, did not come from their villages.
Mayele said in some cases, village development committee members work with chiefs to sell coupons at K1 500 to vendors.
Chiradzulu district coordinator for Pacenet, George Chakwiya, said some chiefs favour their family members with coupons at the expense of deserving beneficiaries.
“My own chief listed all his family members, seven of them, as beneficiaries. This was done with a village development committee (VDC) member who was supposed to stop that. The problem is that many VDCs are composed of relatives of chiefs and so they become toothless,” said Chakwiya.
Chiradzulu Police spokesperson Ralph Makondetsa confirmed the police received complaints from villagers from various parts of the districts about the chiefs’ interference in the subsidy programme, but he was quick to add that investigations did not warrant arrests.
Chiefs present at a consultative meeting convened by Pacenet to brief them on the Zotheka Project, denied being involved in such malpractices. Others said the malpractices could be happening at the lower level of village headmen.
However, Chakwiya said sanity will prevail in Chiradzulu following a one-year Pacenet project called Zotheka with Tilitonse Funds.
“We have started training village development committees in the entire district. We want to equip them with skills and knowledge to hold the authority accountable. Instead of conniving with chiefs in malpractices, VDCs should be promoting accountability and transparency,” said Chakwiya.
Mpumila village is a typical example where people are suffering in silence because the VDC is composed of relatives of the village head, claimed one villager, Dennis Michael.
“I wish the VDC were not politicized. The village drinks from a well which is located down Chiradzulu District Hospital sewage. This is dangerous to our health. But the VDC cannot fight for us because it is in the arm pit of the chief. We cannot demand our rights lest we are evicted from the village,” said Michael.
Pacenet executive director Steve Duwa said the problems people in Chiradzulu are facing, especially the fertiliser subsidy woes and inability to demand development or following up on projects, are becoming history because of Zotheka Project which is empowering communities to claim their rights and ensure transparency and accountability in every project.